By Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Horror fans who want to add a little bit of blood and suspense to their Valentine’s Day celebration need not worry: we have compiled a list of ten films perfect for this holiday. Pay a visit to the video store, grab some popcorn and cuddle close.
Hitchcock and Gothic make for a marriage made in Heaven. A woman falls in love with a rich fellow, without realizing that the shadow of his former wife still haunts his home from beyond the grave. Don’t go in expecting special effects and ghosts with moaning chains. This is a psychological thriller, the type of Gothic that focuses on the darker corners of the mind rather than axes. Secrets abound in Manderley and Hitchcock photographs the house beautifully, with the black-and-white photography completely suiting the mood. It is a dark, slightly unpleasant place heaving under its past. Hitchcock’s American film debut is a stylish, atmospheric product. Highly recommended for lovers of classic Gothic stories.
O doomed love! More doomed than ever if you look like a big fish with feet and the object of your attention is a pretty swimmer played by Kay Lawrence. Creature From the Black Lagoon is a classic creature-feature that looks great, even after all these years, with an excellent gill-man suit and some very nice underwater sequences. It also balances thrills with romance. Yes, there is plenty of romance as Lawrence makes googly-eyes at a human, while being pursued by a prehistoric creature. That’s a real love triangle for ya. Though it was originally released in 3-D, I have to say that, sadly, this movie is seldom available in that format nowadays, though I did catch an outdoors screening of it, once-upon-a-time. Either way, it’s a worthy Valentine’s Day watch.
Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde (1971)
This is a Hammer film from the time period in which Hammer was struggling to reinvigorate itself. Adding more sexiness to the mix seemed like a good idea and thus came films like this one, in which the good doctor does not transform into a younger killer, but a beautiful woman. The script assures us of plenty of mayhem because the secret ingredient for the doctor’s formula is a bunch of female hormones, which he acquires by murdering prostitutes. Since we have two personae in one body, we get two love interests: a sweet young woman and her roguish brother. Martine Beswick, playing the “sister”, is sexy, strong, ruthless and much more interesting than her male side, but overall, it’s a fun romp through foggy London.
The Bride (1985)
A young Sting plays Dr. Frankenstein and Jennifer Beals (yes, of Flashdance) is Eva, one of the creatures he has created. Luckily, Eva is much prettier than Sting’s first experiment. The hulking male creature ends up befriending a dwarf and playing as a circus attraction, while Eva is dressed in nice clothes and taught all the fine points of acting like a lady. I know this flick doesn’t get a lot of love, but it is a suitably Gothic exercise and Sting is a delight playing the attractive, sexy and evil doctor, who has his eye set on Eva. Not a scary flick, but the relationship between the monster and his friend is sweet and the Baron is darn sexy. A pretty, yet vacant, Jennifer completes it all. Light, pleasant fare, with a bit of a retro-horror twist.
The Fly (1986)
A scientist develops a method of teleportation. The scientist meets a lovely journalist. They fall in love. He accidentally ends up mixing his DNA with that of a fly when he teleports. Since this remake is directed by David Cronenberg, body horror and some gross special effects ensue. But, esentially, this is a love triangle between the slowly transforming lover, the young woman and her former boyfriend, to whom she turns in her moment of need. A more expansive look at this film appeared last year on this site. The sequel, which focuses on the scientist’s son (also accursed with the half-human, half-fly problem) also includes an important romantic component. You could do a double-feature, although you may want to watch your food intake with this one. I mean, yuck.
Innocent Blood (1992)
French actress Anne Parillaud, best-known for her role in Nikita, plays a vampire with a conscience before vampires with a conscience became the norm. You’d think this would mean a very dry prototype for Twilight. But, courtesy of John Landis, there’s more blood than you’ve ever seen Angel shedding. Having a desire for Italian, the pretty vampire attacks a group of mobsters: criminals make a great choice for dinner, but she passes on a nice cop who is growing curious about the corpses drained of blood popping up around the city. Unfortunately, one of the mobsters survives and becomes a bloodsucker, which leads to much mayhem, dark humour and, yes, blood, as Parillaud attempts to right her wrongs. Oh, and she grows close to the nice cop. Consider it a paranormal romance with more splatter than usual.
Sleepy Hollow (1999)
Handsome leading man Johnny Depp looks pale and wimpy in this Tim Burton period piece, which contains plenty of twisted trees, cravats and an oddly blonde Christina Ricci. And wimpy he should be, as a proto-investigator with scientific ideas, who encounters the supernatural when he journeys to a small town where people are showing up with their heads cut off. Who is behind this? Could it be the Headless Horseman? Well, he’s played by Christopher Walken and people are decapitated, so that’s an easy one, but there’s more to this little tale than meets the eye, including witchcraft and revenge. With a strong nod towards Hammer Films (Fog! Burning windmill! Christopher Lee!), Burton constructs a pretty, spooky flick. Methinks the ladies will enjoy this one.
What happens when a vampire and a werewolf fall in love? Why, you get Underworld! It stars the perfect embodiment of the paranormal romance heroine: a beautiful chick with dark hair, in tight, black outfits, who likes to look over her shoulder and strike great poses. Kinda like The Matrix and Blade, but there’s a hunky werewolf running around and vampire clans (and vampires are rich, as usual, so big mansions and nice dresses and all that jazz). The movie manages to pad and hide its script deficiencies with slick action sequences in which people make impossible leaps and kick through the air in slow-mo, and things go bang-bang. Not the most intelligent movie about vampires you’ve ever seen, but good popcorn fare if you’re in the mood for a kick-butt heroine.
Blood and Chocolate (2007)
Beautiful werewolf and chocolatier Vivian falls in love with a human artist, a major no-no in her pack. To make matters worse, the artist totally blows it when he kills a werewolf. What’s a girl who turns into a shaggy dog to do when her boyfriend is being chased by her kinsmen? The movie has very beautiful locations (It takes place in Budapest) and good cinematography, which helps give the impression that we’ve got something a tad different in our hands. Having never read the original book on which this flick is based, I can’t make any comparisons between them, but this film, despite its budget limitations and some gaps on the part of the script, manages to look and feel like a suitable paranormal romance, which will please fans of The Vampire Diaries show.
My Bloody Valentine 3D (2009)
I wasn’t sure how this remake (which we’ve written about elsewhere) would fare in an era of remakes aplenty, and many of them rather mediocre (Friday the 13th or Nightmare on Elm Street), but it works and it works well. The opening sequence, with the cut-outs from newspapers, is great and things move forward at a steady pace from there as we meet Tom, a young man returning to his mining hometown a decade after a massacre that ocurred on Valentine’s Day. Murders pile up and everyone wonders who might be responsible for this new wave of violence. This is typical slasher fare. There’s lots of blood and there are tits (of course!) to satisfy purists of old-school slashers. Despite some hiccups, it’s entertaining and Jensen Ackles (from the TV show Supernatural) looks hunky and bewildered as he runs around town, trying to piece all the bits together. So, for gore fans, this is a good pick. Sadly, I don’t think the 3D experience will translate to the small screen.